Welcome all to the first blog by your new gardening team, Alastair and Anna (New Year, new term, new team!).

Somerville’s Head Gardener Alastair Mallick and his fellow gardener Anna Hart

As you might have noticed, the gardens are starting undergo some big changes right now. Having picked up the mantle from his predecessor Sophie, Alastair is going full steam ahead with pushing the development and sustainability of the gardens, as well as increasing their biodiversity.

One addition to the garden we’re really excited about are the new bird feeders that have been placed around the quads, which are already bringing a large number of new avian visitors. The list of sightings is long: Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Fieldfares, Long Tailed tits, Robins, Wrens, House Sparrows and Dunnocks, and that’s just for starters. We hope more will be joining them throughout the year!

Two of Somerville’s new bird feeders, which have been a smash hit with our feathered visitors

Birds aren’t the only new wildlife we are trying to encourage. If you’ve been thinking the gardens in some areas are looking a little unkempt, rest assured that this is not forgetfulness on our behalf! It is, in fact, a deliberate move to encourage and help the hibernating insects. If you are lucky and look closely, you might just spy a sleeping ladybird on a flower stem dreaming of warmer months.

Garden Highlights

Although we are in the ‘dead of winter’, there are still many delights in the gardens to enjoy this January. Not only are the snowdrops coming up, our crocuses are making a break for it now – like little yellow and purple jewels dotted through the borders as well as some in the lawns. There are also several beautifully scented winter flowering shrubs around the college for you to sniff out: Sarcococca (Sweet Box) outside Penrose, Lonicera Frangarantissima (Honeysuckle) adorning the wall of MTC Quad, and both red and yellow Hamamelis (Witch Hazel) in Darbishire. You can see photos of them in the gallery at the bottom.

Final Words

To finish, a last note on the grass in Darbishire and the main quad. You may (hopefully you have) noticed a plethora of ‘Don’t Walk on the Grass’ signs up. This is not a change from Somerville’s long held tradition of being allowed on the grass! Lawn grass has a nasty habit of dying when stepped on when frozen or if the ground is water logged. To ensure a beautiful lawn later in the year (when – let’s be honest – you will want it much more), we need to make sure we protect it now. Take this as our small plea for help and just a little patience. Bear with us – the signs will disappear and the tradition of Somerville’s lawns will be back sooner than you think.

Click on a photo below to view captions:

Further reading?

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